Spain Out To Break U18 'Curse'

25 July 2011

Spain have long been known as a powerhouse at the youth level with four medals at each of the U16 and U20 levels since 2005 including two golds and two silvers.

But Spain have come up short at the U18 level, winning only a bronze medal in 2006 since their gold in 2004.

7. Jaime Fernandez (Spain)
Natural Born Leader: can Jaime Fernandez and his teammates lead Spain to U18 gold?

Last summer Spain lacked the high talent level they are usually known for and slumped to an 11th place finish. In 2009, Turkish superstar Enes Kanter had 21 points and 18 rebounds to beat Spain in the quarterfinals.

In 2008, Donatas Motiejunas had 31 points and 14 rebounds in helping Lithuania beat Spain in the quarters as well.

Even a superstar like Ricky Rubio playing at home in 2007 could not help Spain reach the semifinals - as the first of three straight fifth place U18 showings.

But the past is the past and this Spain group is ready to grab a medal again.

"The goal for Spain is always to fight for the medals," said Spanish coach Luis Guil, who coached Spain's 2006 bronze medal winning team.

But that will not be easy, Guil said.

"I think seven or eight teams can win the championship. I have been at European Championships for seven years and I think this is the highest level I have seen," said Guil.

The coach admitted his team must play as a unit and not as individuals if Spain stand a chance to medal in Poland.  Guil also said his power forwards and centers will need to step up.

"We need to have a physical power forward. My team has talent. But I need a physical four," said the coach.

Thus far, Spain's low post players - Alejandro Suarez, Julen Olaizola and 16-year-old Guillermo Hernangomez - have performed admirably.

The main motor for Guil's team has been point guard Jaime Fernandez, the only member of this group that played at the U18 level last summer.

Fernandez the summer previous guided Spain to the U16 gold medal along with five other players from the current U18 team - Suarez, Olaizola, Javier Medori, Jorge Sanz and Daniel Diez.

That sextet then played last summer at the 2010 U17 FIBA World Championship, but slumped to a 10th-placed finish of 12 teams.

"We learned a lot. If we play like we did last year then we won't do anything here," said Fernandez.

"Now we know what it take to win a tournament and lose a tournament. We'll be ready for every situation. I hope this helps us to win a medal."

One of the new players into the team is Alejandro Abrines Redondo, who is actually making his debut in the Spanish national team system as a 17-year-old. Redondo said the established core has helped the others with their past experience.

"These players have experience to give to all of us other players. We have to learn from their experience and just play and have the motivation," said Redondo. 

Spain's last two U18 golds were won by teams with some of Spain's biggest stars in their history. In 1998 it was Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon, Raul Lopez, Felipe Reyes, Carlos Cabezas and Berni Rodriguez. And in 2004 the stars were Sergio Rodriguez and Carlos Suarez along with Sergio Llull.

Can Fernandez and company become the next group of Spain stars?

"We are the future. But we have to take it one step at a time. It's difficult to be like Sergio Rodriguez or like Calderon. We have to work every day. But we are in a country where all the teams have confidence in themselves," said Fernandez.


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